TEL AVIV (Oct. 31)
Nissim Goon, president of the World Sephardi Federation, arrived here from a visit to Egypt with a gloomy report on the condition of ancient synagogues there and the religious and cultural treasures that belonged to the once flourishing Egyptian Jewish community. Goon headed a delegation of the Sephardi Federation invited by Egyptian Foreign Minister Butros Ghali to survey the situation of Egyptian Jews, their houses of worship and artifacts.
“To our regret, these were not preserved properly and only part of them still exist,” he told reporters at a press conference. “Many precious objects were taken from the synagogues and distributed all over the world.” Goon said the delegation found the Adali St: Synagogue in Cairo, one of the oldest and once one of the richest, in a badly deteriorated state. “The structure is in danger of collapsing and its basement was flooded,” he said. That synagogue once had one of the most valuable collections of gold ornaments.
The even more ancient Ben Ezra Synagogue, which the Egyptians claim was built on the site where the infant Moses was rescued from the Nile, is in worse condition, Gaon said. He said a thorough study will be made but in his opinion there is no way to save the building.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue once contained a priceless collection of original manuscripts, books and scrolls, but regretably, they are no longer there, the Sephardi leader said. He said the Egyptians post guards around the synagogues but much more is needed. He said an agreement was reached with Ghali and with the Minister of Information, Mansour Hassan, to conduct an extensive search and registration of books, manuscripts and religious objects belonging to the Jewish community.
A committee of Egyptian scholars and administrators will work in cooperation with the World Jewish Congress, the Sephardi Federation and the Lehman Institute of the U.S. to determine what must be done to preserve these valuables.